Day: July 13, 2009

Technical Writing

When you have limited resources available to your class, you want to make sure that you get the maximum benefit from them.  If you have to wait in line for the DVD player, or access to the gymnasium, or even to computers and technology, there’s nothing less helpful than trivial time wasting activities.  Why not go for the gusto?  The resulting engagement and relevancy will capture students’ fancy and result in better overall satisfaction with the activity.

I would suggest that the actual writing part is probably the easiest component.  After all, often it’s just a matter of opening a word processor and typing from your revised draft.  It should come as no surprise that boredom sets in quickly.  If that’s the case, I am a real fan of learning technology while writing about it.

At a recent CIESC meeting (Computers in Education School Contacts), we worked through an activity that served to introduce new skills, new software, and ended up with some interesting products.

Divided into groups, the task was to explore a Web 2.0 activity with the idea that each group would be doing a small presentation about what the web application did.  However, we formalized the process.  Each group not only had to explore the application but they used SMART Ideas to made and explode their activities and ideas for classroom applications.  After a suitable time of exploring the web resource, they turned to the mind maps that were created in SMART Ideas and then revisited the web resource.  This time, it wasn’t for exploration; it was to take screen captures of the salient screens, bring them into Adobe Photoshop Elements to enhance (add arrows, annotate, spot light, etc.) the image.  Finally, these images along with instructional text were assembled in Comic Life to create a 1-2 page summary of the resource.

At the conclusion, not only had the group learned about some new Web 2.0 resource, but they had dug deeper into Comic Life, Photoshop Elements, and SMART Ideas than if we had done some sort of activity highlighting any of the applications.  The resulting documents can then be posted around the room for future reference for others.  What was so affirming to me was that many of the teachers returned to their classrooms to do the same activity with their students.

Ontario educators have so many resources for doing this sort of activity in their classroom.  Through the OESS initiative, software titles are licensed so that they are available for every computer and every student in the province.  Most include teacher takehome rights so that you can practice before you go live in the classroom.  There are some wonderful titles licensed that work nicely into the concept of technical writing.

Even with this fine collection of titles, there are so many other online web resources to do the same sort of thing.  I’m thinking that web resources like the following compliment the concept nicely.

What I like about the concept of Technical Writing is the requirement that it be precise, succinct and written with a specific purpose for an audience known or unknown.  I think that it’s also the perfect vehicle for teaching and reinforcing some higher level computer concepts in a motivating fashion that will stick with students.

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links for 2009-07-12